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The IFC? Sundance Channel? — It’s Up To You New York, New York

The IFC? Sundance Channel? -- It's Up To You New York, New York

The IFC? Sundance Channel? -- It's Up To You New York, New York

by Eugene Hernandez

With a five year upgrade of its system underway, Time Warner Cable in
New York City is planning on adding a dozen new channels to its lineup
this fall. The upcoming expansion has resulted in an all out battle for
awareness on the part of the Independent Film Channel (IFC) and the Sundance Channel — each is vying for a spot on the cable system, which reaches
over 1 million subscribers in the city that is regarded as the capital
of independent filmmaking. The campaign to attract awareness and
clearance in the New York City market is undoubtedly crucial to each
channels push for wider access in other areas around the country.

Time Warner Cable Public Affairs Vice President Geri Warren confirmed to
indieWIRE that their representatives are meeting with the marketing and
programming executives from 30 channels (including the IFC and
Sundance), to arrive at a decision on the 12 channels that will be
available in a new tier of programming. The company is also currently
implementing a user survey to determine the type of programming
subscribers would be interested in having in the new tier. The new
unnamed group of news, sports and movie programming will not be a part
of the basic service available to all subscribers; the channels will be
available only to Time Warner Cable customers in upgraded neighborhoods,
starting this fall. The cable company is currently upgrading 200,000
customers each year, for the next five years, to accommodate the new
programming. All Time Warner subscribers will be equipped to handle the
new channels by the year 2000. While Geri Warren would not confirm the
date by which a decision on the new channels would be made, she agreed
that it would be made public by this summer. Cable channel executives
indicated that the decision may be made as early as the end of this

Discussing the importance of the New York City market to their
respective channels, Sundance Channel Senior Vice President of Sales and
Affiliate Marketing Tom Christie singled out the “tremendous
concentration of film lovers” in the region, while Independent Film
Channel Marketing Director Ed Carroll recognized the large concentration
of individuals involved in independent film, and the “disproportionately
high level of opinion leaders” reached via NYC’s cable system.

The Independent Film Channel is relying on its notable programming and
advisory board in the campaign to woo potential viewers. Beyond the
recent announcement that the channel has created two indiefilm companies
responsible for producing projects by both established and emerging
filmmakers, the IFC presented the first live broadcast of the
Independent Spirit Awards, and is gearing up for a month long spotlight
on the Cannes Film Festival. The coverage will feature live broadcasts
of the opening and closing night ceremonies, as well as other festival
reports; promo trailers for the festivities are currently running in
selected Sony Theaters. Reflecting on the channel’s advantages, Ed
Carroll singled out the IFC’s affiliation with the Bravo cable network.
“With Bravo, we were showing indie films before it was cool,” he boasted.
The Independent Film Channel is currently showcasing its programming
weekly on Bravo under the “IFC Fridays” banner. John Pierson’s
television show, “Split Screen“, has been given broader exposure in the
Friday evening slot. The channel also utilized its Bravo connection
during its Independent Feature Project West Spirit Awards broadcast — in select markets (including New York City), the channel carried the IFC’s exclusive broadcast. The channel is relying heavily on the name recognition of its advisory
board; it recently mailed a letter written by Martin Scorsese, urging
customers to contact Time Warner and request their channel.

For its push, the Sundance Channel (which has over 3 million
subscribers) has enlisted some corporate heavy hitters and decided to
build upon its well known brand name. During the 1997 Sundance Film
Festival the channel worked with Starbucks to host a high profile
on-site hospitality area and television studio; the channel broadcast
live coverage of the festival at select Starbucks outlets around the
country. Another major partnership that Tom Christie seems proud of is
the channel’s affiliation with Blockbuster Video. The channel is
marketing directly to consumers through an in-store campaign and
Christie explained that the partnership may grow. “Blockbuster will be
very involved with the marketing if the channel is launched here (in New
York City). I would not be surprised if we were to develop marketing
materials in conjunction with Time Warner Cable that benefited all three
parties.” Another major part of the Sundance Channel awareness campaign
is its affiliation with film festivals. Christie explained, “We have a
great brand,” and revealed that he hopes to “grow it” by “participating
in roughly 25 different film festivals across the country this year,
domestically.” Finally, Sundance is working with Polygram to present a
Sundance Channel trailer on the company’s home video releases.

[For more details on the two channels, visit their respective websites at or]

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